London-based BioBeats, which is developing a wellness solution for consumers using artificial intelligence, smartphones and wearable sensors, has completed a study on corporate stress and health with employees from financial services company BNP Paribas.
A group of 560 BNP Paribas employees wore the (recently discontinued) Microsoft Band 2 to continuously measure various biometric measurements throughout the day. Once a massive amount of data (60GB) was collected, BioBeats analyzed the information through its artificial intelligence platform, developing an algorithm to provide insight on actual moments of stress.
“What we have developed is a stress algorithm,” BioBeats CEO and cofounder David Plans told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “There’s no point in telling someone they are stressed out when they are stressed out, so the algorithm is being developed to build predictive analytics that prevent it from happening.”
By reading heart rate, respiration and feedback from employees about when they experienced stress, the BioBeats team believes they are able to make correlations between the physical biomarkers of chronic stress that lead to health degradation. By knowing when these moments are occurring and offering feedback to people through a device-synced app to stop or alleviate stress before it happens. The company already launched a consumer-facing app called Hear and Now in April, and now has several corporate versions underway to help employees privately control their wellness through the use of wearables and data-driven coaching.
“We’re trying to solve real problems by understanding what stress is doing to us,” Plans said. “We’re looking for biofeedback that tell us if it is just coping, or a sign of disease? How does that chronic stress affect them?”
The academic trial with BNP Paribas is part of BioBeats’ mission to get organizations to shift how they help employees understand their health and draw meaning from how work-related stress affects them. The idea is to provide personalized interventions for better workplace stress management.
Before the BNP study, BioBeats had a small pilot study with UK health insurer AXA that was completed in September, wherein 60 employees wore activity trackers and used customized BioBeats apps for two months. The goal was to refine BioBeats’ learning algorithm for analyzing and classifying daily activities and their correlation to psychological and physiological stress.
“At the end of the trial of AXA, we found that you can look at stress from an algorithmic point of view, even from the data and in the field, if you have the right classifications,” Plans said. “You can evaluate a huge part of stress.”
BNP Paribas is also an AXA member, and BioBeats will be partnering with more corporations under the insurers, Plans said, in hopes of running very large-scale studies.
“What we are building behind it is an entire dashboard,” Plans said. “What we want to do now is publish more studies and get as many users in the wild as we can. We’re aiming for a million users to do these exercises so we can get enough metrics.”
While Plans was well aware of other mindfulness digital tools out there like Spire, BioBeats is doing something new with their stress algorithm.
“We don’t think anyone has gotten in the field with a serious classifier like ours,” he said. “The combination of psychometrics testing and checking in – asking the person what is on their mind and giving them an outlet to express. … What happens if there is a known link between preserved cognition and heart disease? No one has seen that link in data in the field like this.”
BioBeats was founded in 2012 by Plans and Basis Science founder Nadeem Kassan. It initially raised funding from a handful of celebrities including Will Smith, with the aim of collecting heart data from the smartphone app and wearables like Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuleBand, Fitbit and others and fuse it with entertainment in a way that kept people engaged with their data. The idea was to have BioBeats work in tandem with musicians and other entertainers to create “adaptive media,” or “media that reacts in real time to the body’s environment and vital signs,” Kassam told TechCrunch in 2013.
They produced an app that put people’s heart rate into their music, and it was viewed largely as a fun diversion, but they then changed their focus.
“We shifted from entertainment to a more serious platform for health,” Plans said. “At that pivot, we had a whole bunch of people – from hardware and clinical to entertainment and investors – and we suddenly got that we can also use it for health.”
With the AXA study and another small pilot, BioBeats started making bespoke versions of the app specifically for corporate and versions, which are in active deployment using beta versions of Hear and Now. The plan is to have an updated version that is “far more encompassing of health” said Plans.
“We want to change entirely how workplace wellness plans are created, how they can manage conditions like cardiovascular issues and diabetes and build out ways to produce interventions,” Plans said. “We literally want to be at the bloodwork data and intervention level to help people stay productive. So, the largest insurer in the world is a good place to start looking at people.”